IELTS Reading Section | Tips & All You Need to Know About

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IELTS Reading Test

IELTS, that is, International English Language Testing System, is an international proficiency test of English language for the non-native English speakers, for higher education and immigration. It is jointly managed by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge Assessment English. The test is divided in two versions depending on the purpose of applying for the test. IELTS Academic is for those who want to study in an English speaking country. IELTS General training is for those who want to work, train or to migrate to an english speaking country. IELTS Academic and General Training, both tests the ability of the candidate to listen, read, write and speak in English.

There are, basically four sections of this test, namely, listening, speaking, reading and writing sections.

{Reading and writing sections are different for academic and general training}

IELTS Reading section


The IELTS reading section is designed for the purpose of examining the candidate’s ability to read, and not only just understanding the content but also to follow the ideas and opinions that are reflected in the text. The test also judges candidate’s skills to develop his or her own point of view regarding the content.

The IELTS reading section takes 60 minutes, consists of 3 reading passages and a total of 40 questions to answer. The reading passages given to the candidates are appropriate for the candidates applying for undergraduate courses because the topics of these passages are authentic and taken from books, journals, magazines and newspapers, written for non-specialist audience and dealing with academic topics of general interest.

As already discussed, there are 3 sections, containing long texts, in the IELTS reading test. For each reading passage, the candidate will have to answer 10-14 questions. The only difference lies between the Academic and General training test, is the content of these 3 sections or passages. Let us differentiate between IELTS reading section in Academic and General training versions.


The topics one has to deal with in the test might range from science and  history to environment, from the descriptive and factual to the discursive and analytical. But it’s not overbearing because the test commonly uses passages from professional and academic journals, textbooks, reports, and newspapers. This section also contains visual materials, for instance, graphs, diagrams or illustrations.


The topics comprising in general training test includes articles from journals, newspapers, magazines, advertisements, notices, booklets, official documents, leaflets, timetables, instruction manuals, books and the topics tend to relate to daily life.

There are three sections, divided in the general training test:

In Section 1, there are 2 to 3 very short (and relatively simple) texts related to general  topics that are relevant to everyday life in an English-speaking country. e.g. hotel advertisements.

In Section 2, there are two short texts, related to work in some way, such as a job application or company handbook.

And Section 3 contains a longer text discussing a more academic or abstract topic.


Overall there are 40 questions that have to be attempted by the candidate in 60 minutes. Sounds hasty, right? Chill, with practice you will get adapt to this acceleration.

The  types of questions asked will be

  • Multiple choice:– It has to be there as a traditional question type. The candidate will be asked to select the perfect answer from the options given. Focus on the keywords in the question before start scanning the whole passage.
  • Matching:– Unlike matching the picture of bat with its spelling that we were asked in second standard, you will be asked to match a list of “headings” to each paragraph in the passage. There is one perfect heading comprising the main theme of the passage and other options that would be irrelevant to the content. Additional to matching the heading, the question might be about matching either information or sentence ending with the concerning passage.
  • Sentence completion and short-answer questions:– This question tests your ability to understand the essence of the theme that has been presented in the passage and the sentence completion questions asks the candidate to fill in a blank at the end of a sentence with some words taken from the text.
  • True/false/not given:– The candidate need to figure out whether information in the    question is TRUE according to the passage. If it is , that means that the information in the question statement agrees with information in the text. However, if the question statement contradicts something found in the passage, the candidate is supposed to mark the answer FALSE.


 The scores obtained out of 40 are then converted into  the IELTS 9- band scale. Each question worth one mark. The parameters for the reading module examines your understanding, and adaptability to the english language  and of course vocabulary plays an important role in getting you a good score.

IELTS Reading tips and strategies

  1. Focus on the topic:– The title of the passage clearly reflects what is going to be the prominent point of discussion in the content. Because the questions regarding the passages will have much to do with the topic, focusing on the heading will give you an insight over the topic and the themes imbibed in the content.
  2. Review the passage:– Before reading the passage with grave concentration, go through the keywords that occur in the passage. These keywords or the words you think are highlighting the theme of the passage, will form the basis of your point of view regarding the topic. Prepare yourself with the ideas and visions that you hold related to the topic and try to get the gist of the passage while you scan the text. While writing the answers, you will remember the keywords, for instance, characters, places, dates, etc. The major benefit of scanning for answers by starting with the easy answers in the text is that you will find answers to other questions in the process of searching for these easy to find answers.
  3. Vocabulary:– Not being able to complete the task within the periphery of the time and achieving the score that you wish for, is the main consequence when you are stuck with a word that you can’t understand and decide where to use. So you should  get familiar with the words and phrases that you find difficult by learning vocabulary from practice reading passages.
  4. Speed:–  the restricting  time limit that, you will be given of 60 minutes to complete the whole section. It challenges your reading skills with a consistent speed. This means, that you have to develop a pace while reading the passages and in parallel, observe the themes and ideas accumulated in the content.
  5. Practice:– unless you practice regularly on your reading skills, your masterfulness will not be reflected to the examiner. Make it a regular practice to read, either it be newspaper or stories, and mark the words you are unfamiliar with. Also craft a meaningful abstract of what you have understand from that piece of work. There are always practice papers and infinite resources available online to sharp your brain and make it adaptable to the style of the actual test. 

Now that you know the scheme of IELTS reading section, fold your sleeves and start improvising in this field if you aspire to turn your dreams of discovering the world into reality.

Good luck.

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